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KZNPO CONCERT: 21 OCTOBER 2004 (article first published : 2004-10-22)

Lovers of English music - they are, I guess, a minority - had plenty to satisfy them in this concert by the KZN Philharmonic, conducted by Adrian Sunshine who has strong musical associations with London and Greece. The programme consisted of Handel (a German who spent much of his life in London), Elgar, Vaughan-Williams and the contemporary composer John Rutter.

The occasion marked the orchestra’s 21st anniversary and a large audience (including, I think, many invited guests) displayed great enthusiasm, especially for the 75-strong Drakensberg Boys’ Choir, who joined the orchestra in a performance of Rutter’s Magnificat. Loud applause followed each of the seven parts of this fine choral work, in spite of the conductor’s efforts to quell it with extended arms; the Magnificat is intended to be sung as a unit, not as separate items.

Be that as it may, the performance was an impressive one. The Magnificat, based on a passage from St Luke, was first given in New York in 1990. It is melodious, rhythmical and accessible, and never tedious. The opening number is very lively, and seems to have some South American influence. Later movements reminded me of parts of Karl Orff’s Carmina Burana. And the work ends with a rousing Gloria.

Altogether enjoyable, with the Drakensberg boys making their usual impact. Somebody should tell some of them, though, that swaying from side to side is totally inappropriate for music of this kind.

Two items from Handel’s brilliant Royal Fireworks Music opened the programme, followed by Elgar’s introspective Introduction and Allegro for string orchestra, with some expressive solo playing by Darragh Morgan (violin) and William Muir (viola).

Ralph Vaughan-Williams’s 1924 Violin Concerto is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it did introduce a really gifted soloist, Nokuthula Ngwenyama. She was born in California of Zimbabwean-Japanese parentage, she seems to be about 30 years old, and she has already made a big reputation with her violin performances in the United States. She played the Vaughan-Williams with poise, elegance and excellent intonation, especially in the slow movement. - Michael Green




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